8 limbs of yoga & the modern girl

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welcome to 2005! let the new year allow for an expansion of practice on and off the mat. each moment truly can be a moment of potential practice. although many people think that yoga is simply the practice of poses, yoga goes much deeper into what is coined the “8 limbs” of yoga. in order for the hip tranquil chick to truly embody her yoga, she works to incorporate the eight limbs of yoga into her lifestyle.

the yamas (restraints) are the ethical foundation of the hip tranquil chick’s yoga practice and are discussed in detail in an earlier blog. these restraints are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (sexual moderation), and aparigraha (non-greed). the yamas are attitudes and actions to avoid and, according to patanjali, are practiced in order to reduce suffering.

the niyamas (observances) are an expansion of the yamas and are also discussed in an earlier blog. these observances are tapas (discipline), svadhyaya (study of self), samtosha (contentment), isvara pranidanah (devotion to god), and saucha (purity). these observances are actions and attitudes she should cultivate to reduce suffering and to lessen the illusion of separation internally (with self) and externally (with others and the world around her).

asana is the third limb on the eight-limbed yoga system and is commonly erroneously considered the essence of yoga. the hip tranquil chick knows that yoga goes deeper than the physical practice of poses but was probably introduced to the depth of the practice through asana. asana translates as “seat” and is used to release her overactive mind and tune into her body. this stillness encourages separation from her thoughts and never ending to-do lists. patanjali also teaches that asana should be practiced with ease, a symbolic reminder to remain calm in the midst of challenge. the relevance of seeking stillness in activity and ease in difficulty translates into the hip tranquil chick’s practice of yoga off the mat.

pranayama is next on the system and is the control of the breath/life energy. for basic breath work ideas, please see previous blogs for the 3-part yogic breath. a BIG helper while standing in lines, squeezed onto the metro, waiting on an annual review, and centering during yoga.

pratayahara is the withdrawal of the senses and allows her to participate in a chaotic world without always reacting to it. the hip tranquil chick knows that living in a cave presents an easier way to practice her yoga without interruption but practicing in her urban work and play environment is more challenging.

the remaining three limbs are referred to as “the innermost quest” and are more subtle aspects of yoga practice. however, when dharana and dyana are practiced together, the hip tranquil chick is able to focus her mind in a way that assists her personally and professionally.

dharana, concentration, is the ability to be completely present to one thing. in a culture that respects multi-tasking, practicing dharana can be a challenge. the hip tranquil chick works to find balance between being connected and present to each task at hand while also being efficient. she is able to recognize feeling frazzled or non-present and works to remedy that by taking a time out, regrouping, and enjoying the moment she is in.

dynana, meditation, is a deep connection. by sitting still and tuning inward, she is quickly reminded how busy her “chitta,” translated as monkey, mind can be. just as a monkey travels from limb to limb through a forest, her mind travels from thought to thought. stopping to notice the mind’s chatter and releasing attachment to those thoughts – observing, letting them happen without holding onto them or pushing them away – allows for her to deeply connect to the internal workings of her mind.

samadhi, enlightenment, is the final limb and is the experience of complete wholeness. this can happen for the hip tranquil chick when she is in the flow, completely absorbed in the moment, separation is not an issue, and she feels fully in touch with the present.

but what does all this mean to you and your modern, urban life?

OMwork • take one week to focus on each of the eight limbs of yoga. choose one each week and stay mindful of how the practice of that limb affects your choices, observations, impressions, and actions. write about your experience with a detailed description of what that limb looks, feels, tastes, smells and sounds like to you after a week of deep connection to it. here’s to a 2005 with a focus on living life consciously, fully, and chicly.